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Who is most responsible for the sinking of the Titanic?

Discussion in 'Collision / Sinking Theories' started by Andrea Cranford, Mar 26, 2010.

  1. This has always been an interesting question for me. Is it Murdoch because he was on the bridge when the ship hit? Is it the Smith because he was the Captain and refused to heed the ice warnings? How about the main villain of the time, Ismay? Or perhaps the fatal flaw is in the building and design of Andrews? What if the Marconi officers had delivered all the ice warnings they had in their possession? What about the lookouts? If anyone were to carry the heaviest burden in this tragedy who do you think it should be?
    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  2. >>If anyone were to carry the heaviest burden in this tragedy who do you think it should be?<<

    The prevailing attitudes of the day coupled with dangerous navigation practices which were taken for granted as the accepted way of doing business. There is no one person or factor who was the most to blame.

    The real kicker here is that there was really nothing all that unusual about the way that the Titanic was operated from any other ship or line. The difference was that others by good fortune managed to get away with it.

    Titanic didn't.
    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  3. True, the conditions of the time made a tragedy like Titanic more probably, but, just like a good Greek play, the individuals have to play the hands they are dealt. Its too simple to say that it was simply a sign of the times or an unforeseeable occurrence. Too many people saw a disaster like this coming and didn't do anything about it. Even Robertson, a writer with a lackluster imagination could see the possibility of such a disaster. Although of course it is in no way a blueprint of the Titanic disaster, but the idea is there.
    A change of action on the part of any of these individuals could have saved the ship and all lives aboard. If one change by one individual could have saved the ship it is reasonable to conclude that blame, for lack of a better word, can be levied against those individuals who did not take the appropriate actions. Each person has some level of blame, it just depends on the severity and that is where a difference of opinion can come in. Perhaps a better way to phrase the question is whose change of action could have made the most difference.
    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  4. Adam Went

    Adam Went Member

    Yes I don't think there's any one person you can nail all of the blame on - in a way, many people have to take atleast part of the responsibility - even the officers on board that night. Lightoller, who strictly stuck to the women and children rule, even if it meant lowering boats that were half full or less. Smith, for allowing the ship to sail so fast through an ice field. Ismay, for allowing and perhaps even encouraging this on the maiden voyage.

    There's many people who you could lay some of the blame on, but at the end of the day, it's just one of those freak of nature events. The Titanic simply was not meant to be and really, she was doomed long before she ever hit the iceberg.
    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  5. "...The Titanic simply was not meant to be and really, she was doomed long before she ever hit the iceberg..."

    Not really, if the chain of events which started in 1907 had developed in other way, this disaster could have easily been avoided.
  6. The Commander has ultimate responsibility for the safe navigation of his ship. There were many options for him to take, including taking his ship much further southward before turning westward as Capt. Moore of the Mount Temple had done. This would have avoided all known ice reports and added very little to the overall crossing time of the voyage. Instead, he decided to take the risk and continue on track at full speed, expecting any ice to be seen early enough to be easily avoided. He lost.
  7. I agree with Sam. In the end, the captain has the responsibility. Even so, Captain Smith is really only responsible for his part of it.

    This is something I've thought about a lot, because it came up in my book about Thomas Andrews (which, alas, has STILL not found a publisher, but it's ever vigilant in looking).

    I have a scene, during the building of the Titanic, at a time when several men died in shipyard accidents. Without going back to my notes, I think it was in 1910, over a space of 3 or 4 months, at least 4 people died. In my book, Tom Andrews has met time travelers from our century and he knows what happens to his ship. He's trying to prevent it. But with all these deaths, he confronts one of the time travelers (if you'll permit me to quote from my own book): "Three this month, four in just two months. That has to mentioned somewhere. Did you know these people were going to die, Sam? This is not all just about me. It's not all about the sinking. People die, Sam, building these ships. If you know these things, you have to tell me. We have to stop everything we can."

    From there, the time travelers acknowledge that even in the future, business seldom does everything it should to make things safe. No door handle on Apollo 11. The 0-rings on Challenger. The shielding on Columbia.

    We know these things need attention, but it's easier to let it slide. Maybe it costs too much to fix it. Maybe it will set the schedule back for a year if we bring it up. But I think it's human nature to put things off until we are forced to deal with it.

    It's possible no one thought of it. I've heard that Titanic sank because of a lack of imagination - no one could envision the circumstances that would bring her down. Yet all the signs were there, weren't they?
  8. Myar Jones

    Myar Jones Guest

    When ever it comes to man made objects,you are taking a risk,including Titanic.
    People who board an air crafts today,it's a risk,they don't think there going to die,but some times the pilots can not control fate,the air crafts crashes,all aboard dies,who's fault is it?
    Airline company,the Air crafts manufacturing department,Ground crew,the Pilots,Aircraft controllers?

    Same with Titanic,it takes more than a Captain to run a ship-
    Ship company,Ship manufacturing,Ground crew,the Officers and Morse code Operators,which Smith had no idea that Jack Phillips destroyed the communications to the Califorian,hardly Smith's fault.

    Not one person should be blame for a disaster unless they are a terrorist.
  9. I think Ismay.


    David G Brown presents a strong case in his book Last Log of the Titanic. the ship began steaming again after the collision, according to Brown, at the behest of Ismay. This increased flooding and pressure on an already [fire] weakened bulkhead whhich as a consequence would collapse. before the increased flooding the ship would have remained afloat at least until dawnenabling a daylight rescue of the nature that was carried out for the Republic.

    Smith is to a lesser extent responsible for not putting Ismay in his place as Lowe would do later at the boat davits.
  10. Ismay? Not a factor!

    Yes, Titanic began steaming again after collision, order by Captain Smith! (No one ever mentioned Ismay during that time on the bridge!) This has again no effect on a "fire damaged" bulkhead!
    Water in forepeak, cargo rooms, 1,2 and 3, Boiler room No.6 = 5 compartments! One more than she could stay afloat. With Boiler Room 5 it makes 6!

    David G. Brown has an interesting theory but nothing more!
  11. >>David G Brown presents a strong case in his book Last Log of the Titanic. <<

    I am sorry to say that the case presented in that particular book is more fiction than fact.
  12. >>[SNIP]<<

    And I suspect that David himself might be inclined to say as much. From some of the discussions I've seen and even been a part of both on line and in person, I had a strong sense that a lot of his ideas have changed over the years.

    I'm not going to say that Ismay had no influance on some of the events leading up to the accident but the sense I had was that Captain Smith made his decisions independent of any "suggestions" which may...or may not...have offered at the time.
  13. I have always seriously doubted that Ismay, a businessman, and a landlubber, could have influenced any decision that Smith would make. Smith's word on that ship was final, and was respected by all. I have heard it inferred in print and seen it on film, but I buy into that theory about as much as Murdoch shooting himself.
  14. And Marlene, I think you meant to say Apollo 1
  15. >>I have always seriously doubted that Ismay, a businessman, and a landlubber, could have influenced any decision that Smith would make.<<

    Well, he could have. When the nominal "boss" is about, it's generally considered unwise to simply blow off his/her "suggestions, advices, and random ideas."

    The real question is what evidence is there which would show that Ismay actually did so. What little which could be taken as pointing in that direction isn't very convincing in my opinion.
  16. >>Well, he could have. When the nominal "boss" is about, it's generally considered unwise to simply blow off his/her "suggestions, advices, and random ideas."<<
    Quite true, I also think history has been unkind to Ismay. Don't really know much about his character, but I would think he was a much smarter person than the pompous one that the media has made him out to be. Smart enough to defer judgment to the ship handling experts, and stay out of their chain of command. Although White star had gotten rid of the "commodore" rank, Smith was considered the top captain of the line, and Ismay probably treated him with much respect
  17. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Well said Steven!

    As one who has been there, seen it, done it and got a sea-bag full of 'T' shirts to prove it, I can confirm you are right on the money. When an owner's representative or indeed the owners himself is aboard; the trick is to nod or wag your head at the right time while doing exactly what you think is best for your ship based on the best available information. Smith was an expert at it- with owners and influential passengers alike. He was the Company Ambassador so was very good at these sort of things. Never the less, the 'buck' stopped at 'Captain Smith.

    Ultimately it was a big lump of ice that was to blame for the sinking of Titanic but it was Smith's job to see that all those under him were looking out for the safety of the ship at all times. He was blessed with having some of the most professional and best qualified bridge staff on the face of the earth. He also had the best wireless equipment available at the time.
    Samuel is right - he committed the sin of over-confidence and lack of caution. He did not, as I suggested earlier, do exactly what was right for his ship based on the best available information.

  18. Thanks for sharing your views, Martin.

    David is a talented writer and storyteller, so I would encourage anyone to read his work. However, I think David's theory is deeply flawed. There is no evidence that Ismay took a decision to resume steaming, or even voiced that opinion to Captain Smith.

    In regard to pressure on the ship, certainly moving the ship forward is not going to help matters, but it has been demonstrated that the impact of the ship's forward motion on the flooding situation was not of the significance that was asserted. It has been argued: 'the forward movement of the Titanic that took place after the initial stopping of the vessel could NOT [original EMPHASIS] have significantly contributed very much to the overall flooding situation if the movement did not continue for any significant length of time at any appreciable speed.' (see Sam Halpern's article at: http://titanic-model.com/articles/Somewhere_About_12_Square_Feet2/Somewhere_About_12_Square_Feet2.pdf )

    The watertight bulkheads themselves were very substantial structures and, as we know, they contributed to the ship's transverse strength. It was originally proposed to dock the ships on a single line of blocks beneath the keel, which required Harland & Wolff to pay particular consideration to this aspect of their structural design. The Board of Trade saw the bulkheads' plating and stiffening as ample, and they exceeded Lloyd's requirements by quite a margin even though the ship was not built under the classification society's supervision. Regardless of the specifics, I don't see any credible evidence that the watertight bulkhead in question collapsed. It would be a catastrophic failure involving not only the bulkhead, but also the surrounding bunker structures.

    That claim is demonstrably false. As Ioannis has indicated, there was already enough flooding to doom the ship in a much shorter space of time than that.

    Best wishes,

    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  19. Jim,

    You said of Captain Smith: 'he committed the sin of over-confidence and lack of caution.'

    I think the problem with over-confidence is that you don't recognise it until you've hit an iceberg. Smith is a classic example of a long, illustrious and *largely* (by the standards of the time) uneventful career, but he was doomed to be remembered for one of the worst maritime disasters in history.

    Best wishes,

  20. Haowei Shi

    Haowei Shi Member

    Here's my thoery.We should blame Ismay for only order to build 20 boats and ignoring to build 48 boats.We should blame the guys at the White Star terminal in Southampton for left the telescope for the lookouts on the table or the corner of the room.We should blame Cap. Smith for order full speed ahead even though he recieve the ice warning.